Simple salt water solution could reduce Covid-19 symptoms
Scientists believe sea salt could boost the antiviral defence of cells that kick in when you are affected by a cold.
A simple salt water solution could help reduce early symptoms and the progression of coronavirus, new research has suggested.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe sea salt could boost the antiviral defence of cells that kick in when you are affected by a cold.
The new study builds on a trial published in 2019, which found participants who gargled and cleared their nose with a salt water solution had fewer coughs and less congestion.
The researchers will now investigate whether the same solution can benefit those with Covid-19 symptoms and are recruiting adults in Scotland to take part in trials.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the university’s Usher Institute, said: “We are now moving to trial our salt water intervention in those with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, and hope it will prove to be a useful measure to reduce the impact and spread of the infection.
“It only requires salt, water and some understanding of procedure so should – if found to be effective – be easy and inexpensive to implement widely.”
Half of the participants in the original pilot study – known as the Edinburgh and Lothians Viral Intervention Study, or ELVIS – gargled salt water while the other dealt with a cold as they normally would.
Those joining the new trial will be asked to follow government advice on hygiene and self-isolation with one group again asked to gargle and clear their nose with salt water.
More than 1300 people died in Scotland last year as a result of drug misuse – the highest annual figure on record.
Figures published by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) reveal 1339 drug-related deaths in 2020 – a 5% increase on the previous year’s statistics and represent the largest number since records began in 1996.
Almost two thirds of all drug-related deaths were of people aged between 35 and 54.
The country continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe, with 21.2 deaths per 1000 of the population, more than three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK.
Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the highest drug-related death rate of all health board areas in 2020, followed by Ayrshire and Arran and Tayside.
Deprivation also continued to be a major factor in drug deaths, with those in the poorest areas of the country 18 times more likely to die than their more affluent counterparts, the data showed.
After adjusting for age, people in the most deprived parts of the country were 18 times as likely to die from a drug-related death as those in the least deprived.
Men were 2.7 times as likely to have a drug-related death than women, after adjusting for age.
And opioids remained the number one cause of drug related death in Scotland in 2020. The NRS figures show that, of the 1339 people who died from drugs last year, 1192 were related in some way to opioids.
However, in a sign that more drug users are mixing substances, benzodiazepines – use of which has soared in recent years due to easy availability – were implicated in 974 deaths in 2020.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the number of lives lost to drugs is “unacceptable”.
She tweeted “Each one is a human tragedy. @scotgov does not shirk the responsibility & we are determined to make changes that will save lives .”
She added: “These 2020 figures (though no less shameful because of it) predate actions set out at start of year.
“We now have a dedicated drugs minister in @AConstanceSNP, a substantial funding commitment and action underway to eg ensure faster access to community support, treatment and rehab.
“We will also continue to argue for reform of drugs law, which is not currently within our power.
“Today, my thoughts are with every family who has lost a loved one – I am sorry for the loss you have suffered. However, I know that from @scotgov what is required isn’t words, but action to prevent people dying, and that is what we are determined to deliver.”
The figures were published just over seven months after figures showed more than 1200 drug-related deaths were recorded in 2019, while 1187 drugs-related deaths recorded in 2018.
Scotland has suffered from the worst drug death rate in Europe, with the number of users dying rising in recent years.
The number of drug-related deaths has increased substantially over the last 20 years – there were four-and-a-half times as many deaths in 2020 compared with 2000.
The Scottish Government last year recognised there was a crisis, appointing Angela Constance to a dedicated drug policy ministerial role following the resignation of Joe FitzPatrick as public health minister.
During the STV leaders’ debate ahead of the Holyrood election in May, Sturgeon said the SNP “took its eye off the ball” over drug deaths, adding that she had set a £250m investment programme to build up rehabilitation services.
Constance said: “Once again, the statistics on drug-related deaths are heart-breaking. I want to offer my sincere condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one through drug use.
“We need to gather as much information as we can about drug use in Scotland and to that end, data on suspected drug deaths will be published quarterly from this September. This will ensure we can react more quickly and effectively to this crisis and identify any emerging trends.
Even before the statistics were published, seven leading drugs charities announced their support for a Bill aimed at enshrining in law the right to the addiction treatment requested by the individual.
The draft legislation, put forward by the Scottish Conservatives would mean residential rehab requested by someone dealing with addiction and cleared by their doctor would have to be accepted, or a reason given with 24 hours of the refusal.
Services would also be put in place for the families of those struggling with addiction, under the Tory Bill.
“The drugs crisis is our national shame. It is a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken.”
Douglas Ross, Scottish Conservative leader
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross described the latest statistics as “horrifying and heartbreaking”.
He said: “The drugs crisis is our national shame. It is a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken.
“This is not a day for political posturing but it is a simple fact that the government’s small steps are not cutting it. The crisis is getting worse and spiralling out of control. We need a united national effort to make the drastic changes necessary to overhaul the broken system.
“The Scottish Conservatives are bringing forward a Right to Recovery Bill to guarantee in law that everyone who needs treatment can get it.”
“Issuing apologies now is too late for thousands of people. The victims of drugs and their families were failed. It is a scar on the conscience of this Scottish Government.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat healthspokesperson
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said the deaths are a “scar on the consicence” of the Scottish Government.
He said: “Every drug death is preventable. However, that task became ten times harder when SNP ministers avoided the subject ahead of the independence referendum, as that justice secretary admitted, and then cut the budget for critical prevention services by 22%.
“Help and expertise that people relied upon was needlessly surrendered when it should have been expanded. “It was Nicola Sturgeon’s choice to ignore this unfolding epidemic.
“Issuing apologies now is too late for thousands of people. The victims of drugs and their families were failed. It is a scar on the conscience of this Scottish Government.”
Darren had been on the brink of going into rehab when lockdown scuppered his chances – within a year, he was dead.
“When we were young, he looked after me, he was my hero,” Donna says. “I’ll be forever grateful for that. He was my brother, Darren Conway, just a wee fella whose life went off the rails.”
‘I lived in hope’
Darren, who’d been staying in a Glasgow hostel, died aged 49 on March 17 following a history of drug addiction stretching back to his early 20s.
Despite having worked before, attempts to save his life using the overdose-reversing medication Naloxone failed, and he died in hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest.
While Donna is still waiting for the results of official toxicology reports to confirm what was in his system, she knows he took heroin, methadone and other substances such as etizolam, known as Street Valium.
“He was my brother,” she says. “I just lived in hope he would one day turn that corner.”
‘The change was drastic’
After growing up in Irvine, North Ayrshire, the siblings left home around the same time – but while Donna only moved three miles away, Darren headed to Glasgow, where his life became caught in a “downward spiral”.
Donna had children and raised a family, losing touch with Darren as he became homeless; sleeping rough and ending up in prison.
“When I got back in contact with him after a gap of around three years, the change was drastic,” she says. “He didn’t even look like my brother anymore. You could tell his lifestyle had consumed him.
“He had Hep C first, then HIV and his girlfriend passed away in 2015 with drugs. She was only 30. He lost one of his good friends to drugs too, but all that never stopped him.
“To me, it wasn’t that he didn’t want help, but getting the right support was difficult.”
‘Hurdles are too high’
In December 2019, Donna learned through social media that Darren had been taken into hospital with a severe chest infection. Together with a friend who was also a drug support worker, plans were made to secure him a rehab place with the charity Teen Challenge.
“You always know when people want to go into recovery,” the support worker, Darren Anderson, says. “Darren had that spark when he was lying in hospital, but no one has the strength to run before they can walk.
“It’s not even that there are too many hurdles – the hurdles are too high.”
First, Darren had to reduce his methadone intake before he could be accepted for rehab. He managed this in hospital, but as soon as he was discharged, he went “back to square one” as his prescription was increased.
Then the pandemic took hold and the first lockdown was imposed in March 2020 – just as Darren was on the cusp of getting proper help.
“We got the paperwork done, we signed him up, got him linked in with rehab and Darren was buying into it,” recalls Donna. “But as we were under lockdown, I couldn’t travel to Glasgow to see him, so I was ordering shopping and getting a supermarket to deliver it to him at the hostel.
“In our last phone call, we spoke about the food parcel and I said ‘once restrictions are lifted, I’ll come up and see you’.
“A couple of weeks later, I got the phone call to say that he was gone.”
Instead of making plans for rehab, Darren Anderson was instead helping to lead a funeral service.
“I don’t even know if there are words to describe how I felt,” he says. “You can lose hope yourself. You think ‘what is the point?’.
“You know you can do good things in your community and can get results. You see people getting better, getting into rehab in the right circumstances, getting the right care plan, and then something like this happens and it sets you back.”
Donna has been left with unanswered questions and wants other families to be spared her pain; she asks herself all the time if she could have done more, or done something differently.
But she says: “I was one person, one person for one other person with huge issues. You can’t do that alone, you need help, you need support, you need consistency.”
‘I hope he’s at peace now’
Donna was allowed to scatter some of Darren’s ashes in the grounds of Sunnybrae in Aberdeen, the rehab centre where it was hoped he would have received help to beat his addiction.
“They didn’t know Darren, they never even met him, but they are now also allowing us to put a photo of him on their memorial wall,” she says.
“I don’t know if he’d have made it to rehab or not, but I lived in hope my brother could have turned that corner.
“He has a more settled place in death than he did in life. I hope he’s at peace now.”
A journalist who flew back to Scotland to visit her dying dad has described her distress at being stuck in a quarantine hotel during his last days.
Claire Herriot landed in the country from red-list Turkey earlier this week after receiving news that her dad, Gordon, was nearing the end of his life at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
Under current Scottish Government rules, arrivals from red-list countries are mandated to quarantine in a hotel for ten days but temporary release can be facilitated for people visting relatives receiving end-of-life care.
But Claire has only received a one-off compassionate visit to see her dad, which she found to be an upsetting experience that has been exacerbated by her enforced isolation at a hotel in Edinburgh.
She said: “I came back on the understanding I have a one-off compassionate visit. My logic was I’ll do that visit as soon as possible and then I’ll have seen him and if he does die at least I will have seen him.
“When I got back from the hospital I was very upset because as far as I was concerned I was potentially seeing my father for the last time under these circumstances – and he didn’t understand why I was leaving, he seemed to think my concern was he was going to give me germs, so that was upsetting because that obviously wasn’t what I was trying to convey to him but he didn’t really understand.
“So when I got back to the hotel I was so distraught and distressed that I decided it’s not enough to just see him once. I won’t get out of here again potentially until August 7 and I’ve got letters from doctors supporting my request to leave isolation for a compassionate reason, saying he’s unlikely to still be alive on August 7, so that is how I found myself in this situation.”
Claire is now calling on the Scottish Government to let her visit her dad in hospital again, as well as provide support for her deteriorating mental health.
“I am a patient as well because I am saying that my mental health is suffering in this situation,” said Claire.
“They have left documents in this hotel room, which say if you, the person in quarantine, if your mental health is suffering to such a degree that you need to leave quarantine then that can be evaluated and so far I’m not being able to get that evaluated, so I’m saying I make that threshold and therefore I should be able to leave and that’s where it is getting difficult.
“Had I not got that visit agreed I wouldn’t be in this hotel room. Under those circumstances I would rather have stayed in Istanbul with my partner and been with him when I got this news, rather than being alone in hotel quarantine. My partner’s American, therefore, he can’t come to the UK from a red zone, he’s not got a British passport.
“I’m just really shocked by the responses I’ve had from the Scottish Government. I feel like they’re not getting it. There’s been some movement on the possibility of seeing my dad again but I have to wait for further tests, for the results of further tests to come back, and I don’t know if he’s still going to be alive at that point. I also feel like for myself that I meet the threshold of a very substantial detriment to my health of being in this facility and I can’t access the help that they’re telling me is available.”
The Scottish Government said Claire had been provided with a plan to visit her father upon arrival in Scotland and is willing to facilitate a plan that will allow her to see him again.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the need to facilitate temporary release from managed isolation in order to support family visiting for those receiving end of life care. This is why the regulations do allow for an individual who is quarantining in Scotland to see a close family member or friend for a visit when relating to the end of a person’s life.
“Ms Herriot was provided with a visit to see her father upon arrival in Scotland and we are more than willing to facilitate a visit plan to enable Ms Herriot to visit her father on subsequent occasions. We have said Ms Herriot may visit her father upon day two and eight provided she has negative test results.
“However, the current regulations require that persons authorised to make end of life visits must return to managed isolation following the visit.
“International travel restrictions including the use of managed isolation remains necessary to limit the importation of the virus and variants of concern.
“There are very limited exemptions to the quarantine rules. Overseas travellers are urged to be aware of the international travel restrictions in place before they travel.”
A man who sent threatening Twitter messages to SNP MP Joanna Cherry has been ordered not to contact her for five years.
Grant Karte, 30, has also been given a community payback order, supervised for 15 months, with 160 hours of unpaid work in the community.
Cherry contacted police over a threat on February 1, the day she was dropped from her party’s front bench team at Westminster in a reshuffle.
Karte, 30, previously admitted sending Twitter messages on February 1 that were “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” in that he repeatedly threatened Cherry contrary to the Communications Act 2003.
Sentencing Karte at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Friday, Sheriff Alistair Noble said: “You pled guilty to a serious charge, a charge involving threatening a member of parliament.
“Your threat carried implications of violence and one interpretation of what was said was sexual violence.”
Sheriff Noble said he took the view that it was not necessary to impose a period of custody and imposed a community payback order instead, but warned Karte that if he breaches the order he will have to return to court.
Cherry, the Edinburgh South West MP, had been the SNP justice and home affairs spokeswoman at Westminster until the reshuffle in February.
Sheriff Noble also imposed a five-year non-harassment order on Karte which bars him from contacting Cherry from July 30.
Defence agent Simon Collins, representing Karte, said a psychiatric report prepared ahead of the sentencing was positive and “reflects on his regret and remorse regarding the incident.”
Denis Alexander preyed on the boys during yoga classes and at his study in Fort Augustus Abbey school in the Highlands.
A priest who was brought back from Australia has been jailed for four years and five months for sexually abusing two former pupils at a school more than four decades ago.
Former monk Denis Alexander, 85, assaulted the children while teaching at Fort Augustus Abbey school in the Highlands during the 1970s.
Alexander preyed on the boys during yoga classes and at his study in the institution.
A judge told him at the High Court in Edinburgh: “You have brought lasting shame on the Order of which you were a member.
“You plead guilty to the sexual abuse of two young boys who were between 12 and 14 in 1973 until 1976. You were 37 to 40 years of age at the time.
“That abuse is aggravated by the age of your victims and position of trust and authority resulting from your status as a teacher and as a monk.
“These vulnerable young boys were entrusted to your care and what you did was a gross abuse of the trust placed in you as a teacher.”
Lord Burns said it was also in “flagrant disregard” of the principles and beliefs which Alexander was duty bound to follow as a Benedictine monk.
The judge acknowledged that he had no criminal record prior to or since the offending and was now in poor health.
He told him he would have faced a five-and-a-half year prison term but for his guilty pleas. Lord Burns backdated the sentence to January 23, 2017. Alexander has been in custody since then.
The judge told the Australian citizen that he would be subject to deportation. Alexander later left Scotland and became a priest in Sydney where he initially contested a bid to extradite over his crimes.
Efforts to bring him to justice after a BBC documentary called Sins of Our Fathers was shown in 2013. His victims found the courage to contact the police.
Alexander was returned to Scotland almost three years after an extradition request was first sent to the Australian authorities.
He admitted two charges of indecent behaviour against the boys at the High Court in Edinburgh last month after being brought into the building in a wheelchair.
Advocate depute Jane Farquharson QC told the court: “These offences committed by this accused Denis Alexander are a snapshot of what is believed to be wider systemic abuse of children within the Fort Augustus Abbey School and its preparatory school Carlekemp, also run by the Benedictine Order.
The prosecutor said the school was a subject of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry during 2019 and the English Benedictine Congregation accepted physical and sexual abuse of children took place.
Alexander was known as Father Chrysotum when he taught at the Highland institution, where he also tutored pupils in bagpipe playing.
His first victim, now aged 60, was about 13-years-old when Alexander summoned him to his study and pushed his hand down the victim’s trousers and molested him between September 1973 and June 1974.
The second victim, now aged 58, was subjected to abuse after the monk asked him to join a yoga group which was held in part of the monastery.
He was aged around 12 to 13 at the time of the abuse in the mid 1970s.He found himself alone with Alexander who molested him while he was supporting the boy in a headstand.
The pupil was also forced to carry out a sex act on him.
He told the headteacher, but the police did not become involved.
Alexander left the school during the 1970s and stopped being a practising Benedictine monk, but remained a priest and moved to Australia.
Ms Farquharson said: “He came to the attention of the police as a result of a BBC documentary screened in the summer of 2013 called Sins of Our Fathers that focused on life within both institutions.”
The Crown Office requested his extradition in August 2016 and a warrant was issued by an Australian court in January the following year.
But Alexander did not consent to his return to Scotland to face justice.
After further legal proceedings he did not continue to fight the move and came back to the UK in January 2020.
Ms Farquharson said: “Significant delays were occasioned in bringing the accused to Scotland as a result of his opposition to the extradition process.”
Defence solicitor advocate Shahid Latif said: “He is sorry and he can do no more than he has done and that is to have plead guilty.”
He said that Alexander had been in “a stressful working environment” at the time of the offending and worked long hours seven days a week.
Alexander watched today’s sentencing proceedings via a video link to prison.
He was placed on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.
Gay and bisexual men earn less than heterosexual men despite legislation aimed at reducing discrimination in the workplace, a study has indicated.
Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) analysed 24 studies published between 2012 and 2020 covering countries in Europe, North America and Australia.
Their analysis, published in the Journal of Population Economics, indicated that gay men earned on average 6.8% less than heterosexual men across all countries covered in the study.
Bisexual men earned 10.3% less than heterosexual men on average, while bisexual women earned 5.1% less than heterosexual women.
Lesbian women earned 7.1% more than heterosexual women, with researchers suggesting “masculine characteristics” as one possible explanation for this.
In the UK, gay and bisexual men together earned 4.7% less than heterosexual men, while in the United States they earned 10.9% less.
In the UK, workplace prejudice against individuals due to their sexual orientation or sex is prohibited under the Equality Act of 2010.
Professor Nick Drydakis, author of the study and director of the Centre for Pluralist Economics at ARU, said: “The persistence of earnings penalties for gay men and bisexual men and women in the face of anti-discrimination policies represents a cause for concern.
“Legislation and workplace guidelines should guarantee that people receive the same pay, and not experience any form of workplace bias simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity status.
“Inclusive policies should embrace diversity by encouraging under-represented groups to apply for jobs or promotions and providing support to LGBTIQ+ employees to raise concerns and receive fair treatment.
“Standing against discrimination and celebrating and supporting LGBTIQ+ diversity should form a part of HR policies.”
Suggesting an explanation for why lesbian women earned more than heterosexual women, according to the research, Prof Drydakis said: “Arguments focusing on lesbian women’s earnings premiums in relation to masculine characteristics, which stereotypically characterise lesbian women and demonstrate leadership, have been utilised to evaluate their experiences.”
He said that a “peripheral explanation for the lesbian earnings premium may revolve around women with children earning less than women without children”.
“Lesbian women might prove less likely to have children than married women, so it makes sense that they may earn more because of their commitment to the labour market,” he said.
“Additionally, lesbian women might show more dedication to the labour market because they are less likely to engage with a higher-earning (male) partner who would provide for them.
“If this is the case, lesbian women might invest more in a workplace career.”
Former diplomat and blogger Craig Murray has said he will “go to jail with a clean conscience” ahead of his eight-month jail term for contempt of court.
The former ambassador to Uzbekistan is due to start prison time imminently after judges ruled his blog coverage of former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond’s trial could identify four complainers.
Protesters will gather outside St Leonard’s Police Station in Edinburgh on Friday afternoon, with the Craig Murray Justice campaign group saying his conviction “sets a dangerous legal precedent for freedom of speech and equality before the law”.
The 62-year-old’s offending blog posts contained details which, if pieced together, could lead readers to identify women who made allegations against Salmond, who was acquitted of all 13 charges including sexual assault and attempted rape in May last year.
At a virtual sentencing in May, Lady Dorrian said Murray knew there were court orders giving the women anonymity and he was “relishing” the potential disclosure of their identities.
Lady Dorrian said that Murray deliberately risked what is known as “jigsaw identification”, saying: “It appears from the posts and articles that he was in fact relishing the task he set himself, which was essentially to allow the identities of complainers to be discerned – which he thought was in the public interest – in a way which did not attract sanction.”
On Friday, Murray tweeted that “in my absence the Craig Murray Justice Campaign will be continuing the fight”, linking to a statement which suggested he would start his jail term “with a clean conscience” on Friday.
Neale Hanvey, the Alba MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said on Twitter he was “devastated and sickened by this development”, adding: “Scotland is no longer a safe, tolerant or free country.
“The vindictiveness of those who wield power is on naked display.”
Last month, Murray was refused in his bid to appeal the contempt finding against him at the UK Supreme Court, in a decision made by the High Court in Edinburgh
In February, Clive Thomson, who tweeted the names of women who gave evidence against Salmond at his trial, was jailed for six months.
The 52-year-old carried out a “blatant and deliberate” breach of a contempt of court order banning the identification of the complainers by naming five of them on social media, said Lady Dorrian at the High Court in Edinburgh.
Duncan Scott claimed his third Olympic medal of Tokyo 2020 by taking silver in the men’s 200 metres individual medley.
Scott, who had already won gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay and silver in the individual discipline this week, was fifth heading into the final 50m but he upped the ante to surge up the leaderboard.
However, despite clocking a personal best time of one minute and 55.28 seconds, the Scot finished an agonising 0.28secs off top spot as he was denied his first individual Olympic gold by China’s Wang Shun, with Jeremy Desplanches collecting bronze.
Scott’s third podium place took Great Britain to six swimming medals for these Games – moving them just one behind their all-time record at London 1908 – after Luke Greenbank had earlier added to the tally by winning bronze in the men’s 200m backstroke.
Greenbank qualified second fastest to reach the final on Friday morning and started well at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, sitting behind only Evgeny Rylov of the Russian Olympic Committee after the first length.
He was overtaken by Ryan Murphy of the United States by halfway but comfortably held on to to finish third in a time of one minute and 54.72 seconds.